Having been fairly busy this week I somehow managed to miss Robert Gibbs's reaction to the Telegraphs's alleged scoop about Abu Ghraib photographs:
Ooh that Gibbs, he is wicked.
I'm afraid, rather disloyally, I sympathise with him rather than with our own press. British newspapers don't take facts seriously. They set out to entertain and shock, and that plodder Truth can catch up afterwards, if at all. This has long been true of what used to be called the tabloids; it's now true of the "qualities", too. Actually, it's not just the need to entertain or shock that drives the sloppiness - it's sloth. Can't be bothered to check that story you turned up on Google? Print it anyway - everyone else has. Some guy you meet in a Washington bar remarks (contra all evidence) that Obama isn't interested in foreign policy? Throw it in. A Labour-sympathising civil servant/spin doctor says that Obama called Cameron a lightweight? Run with it.
These are just examples I happen to have picked up on recently. Peruse any British newspaper on any day and as you scan the pages you'll find dozens of loosely sourced or no-sourced rumours and canards presented as facts. This is particularly true of British coverage of American politics, which on the whole simply doesn't give a very accurate picture of what's going on. As well as errors of fact, situations are routinely misread or distorted, as if the reporter has phoned it in from Bedfordshire and lacks an internet connection. Gibbs will have become aware of all this during the long campaign and has evidently been dying to say something about it. Maybe the Telegraph's story is true, but it can hardly complain if it's become too easy to dismiss.
Not that it hasn't complained. It's published three outraged counterattacks from different writers, including Nile Gardiner (who he?). It all comes across as rather petulant: the clatter of toys hitting the floor. If they're confident in their story, that ought to be the only defence they need.
(Ps I like the wonderfully named - and faced - "Chip Reid". Funny how often life resorts to cliché.)
UPDATE: It looks like the Telegraph willfully distorted the words of its key source. Surprise!